The animation has evolved,
but the storytelling has not
Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
"Dinosaur" represents a technical advance in animation that is going to raise the bar for future generations of animated movies. It looks so terrific that even big people are going to be stunned at the scope of it.
That said, its groundbreaking technical advance is not matched by its storyline, which is typical Disney fare.
Set back in the age of dinosaurs (no duh), we follow the adventures of Aladar (voiced by D.B. Sweeney) who, as an unhatched egg is transported from his nesting site to an island where the thunder lizards aren't really kings of the jungle, where fledgling lemurs, led by the cautious Yar (Ossie Davis) and the maternal Plio (Alfre Woodward), and where the evolutionary facts of life are ignored (primates and dinosaurs? i don't think so).
Plio prevails upon Yar to help raise the young hatchling, "Tarzan"-style (anyone see a tie-in here?) which they do, transforming the young dashing dino into a sort of big plaything for his much smaller and younger...ummmmm, primates.
Their frivolous games are interrupted by a rather inconvenient asteroid shower, which devastates the island something awful. Aladar swims the surviving lemurs over to the mainland, where they find an equal amount of devastation, but join with a herd of dinos heading for the fabled Nesting Ground, led by the brutal Kron (Samuel E. Wright) and his right-hand reptile Bruton (Peter Siragusa), with Kron's comely sister Neera (Juliana Margulies) providing the love interest. Do these sound like Pokemon or what?
Aladar espouses a philosophy of teamwork in order to get the entire herd through the long and dangerous trek; Kron is more of a Darwinist, survival-of-the-fittest kind of guy (kind of ironic when you think about it). Inevitably, the two come into conflict, and with a couple of carnivorous Carnitaurs prowling about, well, let's just say things look a bit shaky for the herd.
Visually, this is eye candy to the extreme. Everything looks completely real, from the rippling muscles of the dinos to the wind-blown fur of the lemurs. The backgrounds were filmed around the world (including Seminole County in Central Florida, where This Writer and Da Queen currently reside) in order to add realism to the feature, and man, does it work. The asteroid sequence is one of the most stunning visuals you'll see this summer, which is saying a lot.
Although the storyline is strictly for the birds (and using a species which eventually died out to illustrate the value of staying together and never losing hope doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me), you'll be completely entertained for the hour and a half you're in the theater. For a more, shall we say, realistic look at dinos in a format just as visually impressive, may I recommend the Discovery Channel's "Walking With Dinosaurs," which is available on DVD and VHS at most Discovery Channel stores these days, and a lot of other locations as well. It's an expensive purchase, but it's well worth it. As for the Disney version, great for the kiddies, wonderful eye candy, but in the end, just "The Land Before Time" with a budget.
Theater or Video? See this on the big screen, and bring the kids. You won't regret it.